JuniorGP Aragon – weekend roundup
Action was everywhere you looked in an epic round of action in the 2023 Finetwork FIM JuniorGP™ World Championship, the penultimate event of the year. Temperatures were high and the on-track action even hotter, as Angel Piqueras (Team Estrella Galicia 0,0) became the latest name to be crowned Champion in the JuniorGP™ class. As for the Moto2™ European Championship, it was Senna Agius (Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP Junior Team) who flew to a mighty double, becoming the first Australian Champion in the class. In the European Talent Cup, the title race is still on despite Maximo Quiles’ (Aspar Junior Team) double; in the Stock European Championship, Eric Fernandez (FAU55 TEY Racing) beat Daniel Muñoz (SP57 Racing Team) in a final lap belter, although 17-year-old Muñoz is the 2023 Champion.
Starting with the sole race of the day for the JuniorGP™ class, Angel Piqueras went from pole position but didn’t break clear of the pack behind. He was always inside the top five, despite an array of riders around him and challenging for victory, including Luca Lunetta (AC Racing Team), Nico Carraro (Aspar Junior Team) and David Almansa (Finetwork Mir Racing Team), the latter of which had to serve a double Long Lap Penalty. Making his first start in the class in 2023, Casey O’Gorman (Team Estrella Galicia 0,0) was right in contention through, whilst Alvaro Carpe (STV Laglisse Racing) was battling with Lunetta at various points.
From 12th on the grid, it was an impressive climb through the field for Eddie O’Shea (British Talent Team) who was inside the top six, as was Thai star Tatchakorn Buasri (Honda Racing Thailand). Moving up from 14th on the grid, it was a fine ride by Jacob Roulstone (Aspar Junior Team) until, on the last lap, he was taken out by title-contending teammate Joel Esteban, who struggled in the race; David Almansa was caught up in it too. Piqueras took victory and thus the title, with the Valencian holding off Lunetta to the line whilst Adrian Cruces (Finetwork Mir Racing Team) rounded out the podium. With a double header in Valencia, the battle for runner-up in the standings is unpredictable.
In the Moto2™ ECh, Senna Agius went from pole to lead all of Race 1 although he was under early pressure from a fast-starting Yeray Ruiz (FAU55 TEY Racing), who jumped the start and only got to serve one of two Long Lap Penalties before falling at Turn 2; thankfully, he was OK. Agius’ title rival Xavier Cardelus (Promoracing) couldn’t replicate his strong pace from before, finishing P6. Ahead of the Andorran, the battle for the podium was unchained: teammates Roberto Garcia (Cardoso-Fantic Racing) and Borja Gomez pipped Barcelona race winner Unai Orradre (STV Laglisse Racing).
In Race 2, Agius didn’t have it all his own way and the 18-year-old Australian had to deal with Alberto Surra (Team Ciatti-Boscoscuro) for the first two thirds of action. Surra was pushing hard and trying to ruffle the Championship leader’s feathers but soon enough, Agius got ahead of the #67 to take another victory and with it, the title in 2023. A historic achievement with it being the first title for Australia in the class and once again, the class proves itself as a true stepping stone to the Moto2™ World Championship, with Agius moving up to the big time in 2024. Completing the podium in Race 2 was Borja Gomez, who took the second podium of the day just a few hours after the first of his career. An honourable mention to Alberto Ferrandez (Finetwork Mir Racing Team), who moved into the class for the first time this weekend and dazzled with a P5 and P4.
Moving to the European Talent Cup and the title could have been won, with Quiles sporting a small one-point lead over Brian Uriarte (Team Estrella Galicia 0,0) and just nine points over reigning Champion and most-recent 2023 race winner Guido Pini (AC Racing Team). Race 1 was a gloves off
battle, like always in ETC but ultimately, Quiles took honours with a perfectly-timed move to the lead, having been at the front for so long earlier in the race. He overcame a Long Lap Penalty to beat title rival Uriarte and Jesus Rios (MRE Talent), the latter taking a first podium in ETC. Also in the race-long battle, Ruche Moodley (Finetwork Mir Racing Team) came from 20th on the grid to lead but retired on the final lap, with Rico Salmela (Team Estrella Galicia 0,0) and Pini completing Race 1’s top five.
In the second duel, action was fiercer as Quiles tried to stretch the pack from pole but Pini was wise to this, knowing that with a 23-point deficit, he couldn’t afford to finish behind the 2021 Champion. The Italian hit the front in the early stages and immediately slowed the pace down, at times two seconds slower than the immediate opening laps. This allowed the pack to close up and a massive battle soon erupted, although it’d be over for Belgian Lorenz Toni Luciano (Artbox), who crashed at Turn 4. Rios once again starred, along with Uriarte, Salmela, Dodo Boggio (Aspar Junior Team), Moodley and his teammate Leonardo Zanni. In the last two laps, Quiles broke free after contact for Pini and Uriarte on the front straight, making it a double win. Rios took a career-best P2 with Pini third, now out of the title fight. Uriarte’s fourth means he’s the only rider who can stop Quiles in Valencia from becoming the first double ETC Champion, albeit with an 18-point disadvantage.
The final race action of the day was in the Stock ECh class but the initial staging was red-flagged for an incident involving Kike Ferrer (Yamaha GV Stratos) at Turn 7. A six-lap restart was now on the billing, with a podium enough for Daniel Muñoz to be crowned Champion. However, Eric Fernandez was keen to lead and slow the race pace down, mirroring Pini’s attempts in ETC. He took over at the head of the field and the gap back to third place and Dino Iozzo (IUM Motorsports) went from 2.3s to just 0.5s. Desperate not to end up locked in a battle, Muñoz hit the front in the last two laps but Fernandez was resilient; the two pulled away again and after contact on the penultimate lap at the final turn, it was a head-to-head thriller. Side-by-side into Turn 16, Muñoz got there first but ran wide, allowing Fernandez to take a second win of 2023 but it wasn’t enough; Muñoz is the 2023 Champion with a round to spare, whilst Iozzo finished third.